Posted by: facetothewind | November 23, 2015

Hawaii house construction photos

Apparently my book, Homosteading at the Nineteenth Parallel, has become somewhat of a cult novel in Hawaii…unbeknownst to me. But I have news for the readers: it’s not a novel! It’s nonfiction. But in Puna, Hawaii, who needs fiction? From what I can tell from my royalty checks, either the publisher is pocketing my royalties or someone is passing the same greasy copy around the jungles and beaches. No matter, it’s nice to know that people are reading it.

Recently a reader requested to see pictures from the construction. So I thought I’d take a little stroll down the soggy memory lane and post some. Here they are. (Click on one to enlarge and use the arrow to advance.)

Posted by: facetothewind | November 11, 2015

Remembering Hang Thung Lia


I received a text from the refugee school headmaster this morning that one of my students, Hang Thung Lia, was run over by a car and killed last night. It’s devastating news, though not surprising considering how dangerous their lives are here living in undocumented squalor, facing police harassment. The boy was only 14.

HTL was an on and off good student who would disappear from time to time. I was told he liked to drink and was a bit wild. I’ve been teaching him for a little over a year now and when I first had him in class, he was inattentive and listless. He had a chip on his shoulder and I frequently had to prod him to pay attention. But over time we made peace with each other, he came to life and flourished. In spite of his being the bad boy in the class, he was usually more advanced and excelled in pronunciation and writing.  A few weeks ago, he won the Word of the Day review contest and gift bag, remembering more of the words I’ve introduced to them than all the other students. Two weeks ago, he was able to pronounce “with” properly before everyone else and sat at the front of the class smug for having done it.

One day when all the students seemed so glum, I asked him what was going on and he said he was “lovelorn.” I was taken aback! That was a pretty advanced word for him to use. He revealed his crushes to me and I came to realize that his bad boy exterior was just compensation for what I believe was a sad romantic, always hatching some unrequited love affair. His use of the word lovelorn was an apt description of himself.

I’ll miss this skinny little guy, his hunchbacked rockstar style, and his sense of humor. He loved to say, “Everybody dance now!” And we would all laugh every time he repeated it.

I’m meeting with his parents tomorrow morning to offer them a donation for his burial. I don’t know how I’m going to keep my composure. Half the time I’m in class I want to burst into tears as they are so terribly vulnerable, just sitting there year after year awaiting resettlement by the UNHCR — something that seems like an impossible proposition now with all the world’s refugee crises.

I’m so sorry he never got a guitar and that he was run over like a rat on the brutal streets of Kuala Lumpur — a poor, undocumented refugee from Myanmar whose death will go unnoticed by any official measures. But I will remember him always.

No one is dancing now, dear child.

P O S T   S C R I P T


Hang Thung Lia’s stepdad at the apartment visit today. His father is deceased. I didn’t realize that he had indeed gotten the guitar he always wanted. This made me smile. At least one of his dreams was realized in his short life.

Chuan and I drove down to the Indian flower market in Chinatown (very KL) late last night and got a gorgeous bouquet of flowers for the family. With the generous help of some other teachers and friends, we raised 1,700 ringgit for them to help cover the funeral expenses, and so I went to the house to deliver the money and some flowers today. I met my students at the school and we walked to HTL’s apartment through squalid alleys, Joel happy to be carrying the bouquet and the other kids plugging their noses. Some baby came out of a store to see the flowery entourage going by and came up to us and hit the flowers. WTF? We got to their apartment building and walked up the unlighted staircase to the apartment to find tons of people’s shoes outside the door. We slipped off our shoes and went in.

The mother was distraught and walked about the apartment wailing and reciting his name. The sounds of her tired voice mixed with babies making various baby noises. I greeted the father (who is actually the stepdad replacing his deceased biological father) and handed him the envelopes of money. He burst into tears and hugged me. They didn’t speak any English so David the school headmaster translated to him the amount that we brought which was considerably more than a month’s salary for most people in his situation. Thank you to those who donated!!

We sat quietly on the floor of their apartment as they had not a lick of furniture and no air conditioning, so it was hot and uncomfortable. But there was a lot of love in the room — seems like every Burmese person in the neighborhood filed in and out to sit with the family. After an hour of sitting on the floor with my students, I suggested we go out for a walk and get some food before going to the memorial service at their local church. When I stood up, the mother came over and said, “Thank you teacher, thank you,” and held onto me and then hugged and petted the flowers and kissed the picture of her son. It was terribly sad and I just held her for what seemed like a long time while she wept. With all eyes on us, I felt somehow shy about letting loose my feelings which were that I wanted to wander around the house screaming with her.


Above is a note he wrote in a class exercise when I asked them to write an introduction of themselves and their wishes.

The backstory that I got in very broken English is that HTL went out late that fateful night with some friends and got robbed by a gang of boys. They put up a fight and more guys showed up to fight and HTL and his friends scattered and HTL took off across a busy road and was struck down by a car that never stopped. A taxi stopped to help and when the police and ambulance arrived, HTL was dead.

Anyway, we went for lunch and a breath of hot fresh air. We had noodles with fish balls. I had one without the fish balls. I tried to talk to Joel a bit, which you’ll see in the video. After lunch we went to the church for the memorial which was packed with community members and a line of wreaths at the front. My small bouquet was put on a chair with “Saya David” written on it…which I think means Teacher David. This is all in the video.

The immediate family of HTL didn’t come to the memorial. I asked a few times why and didn’t get a satisfying answer until I put the words “too painful” in the headmaster’s mouth. “Yes, yes too painful,” he said shaking his head. Ahah, OK. I paid special attention to Joel because I thought he would be hit the hardest and he came without anyone to the day’s proceedings. But he showed almost no signs of grief for having lost his best friend. He was smiling in a way that belied the heaviness of the circumstance, but what does a 13 year old know about death? He is perhaps protected by his undeveloped mind and this will all mean more to him years from now.

IMG_5407Watch the video…

And here are a few photos I indelicately shot today…


His mother in their apartment.

Fellow teacher Cynthia sent me these photos. Below is Hang Thung Lia (in blue shirt) just last week in class at ISKL where Cynthia would invite them. He’s with his best buddy Joel…


Joel and HTL were inseparable in class, always holding each other and playing together like kittens. And here is what he wrote on Saturday in Cynthia’s class. You can click to enlarge…


Da pacem cordium. Give peace to every heart.


Kinda sad when you go to Borneo and this is the best photograph you come home with. It’s not a bad photo, really. It’s actually a lovely photo, in my humble opinion. It’s calm, soothing, a little melancholy — a sort of diner still life with a very tiny nod to Edward Hopper.

But if you’re going to Borneo, you’d expect to come home with pictures of little purple starfishes gleaming under crystalline waters, orange orangutans jumping from tree to tree in their mountainous rain forest habitats. Well dear reader, I’m sorry to report it didn’t happen. After a failed attempt to get to Bali (due to volcanic eruptions closing the airports), we went home from the KL airport in a bit of a daze not knowing what to do with the time off and the airline credit. We had hoped that the next day we would be able to get to Bali but no, the flight was cancelled again that day as well.

So we quickly checked AirAsia’s flight availability and flipped through a Malaysian National Parks booklet I happened to have. We decided on a marine park as we really wanted to go swim with da fishies. So we chose Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, East Malaysia, checked the flights and at 10:30 am we left the house for a 2:30 pm flight hoping we could get on at the last minute.

In our haste we forgot to bring the underwater housing for the camera, an umbrella, and I even forgot to turn off the aircon. Dern it. In the taxi to the bus station, I texted a few friends to let them know where we were headed and they all warned me about kidnappings in Sabah, the Malaysian state where we were headed. I quickly did my research on my phone and in fact there are US State Department advisories warning tourists about potential kidnappers who take tourists at gunpoint and then demand ransom for their release. My friend said white people fetch higher prices. Like I don’t have enough worries in Malaysia with typhoid and crazy drivers and people throwing shit out their high floor windows — now add to that the possibility of being kidnapped and secreted away in a jungle while my parents try to come up with a million dollars. Whoopee, Sabah, here we come!


Where the hell is Borneo? Well, it’s a giant island in the South China Sea that has 3 different countries sharing it: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.

The trip started with the SkyBus driver surfing the Internet on his phone the entire time. He was weaving over the lines and turning without signaling and signaling without turning. So I filmed him and sent it to SPAD (the federal authorities) and called the bus company who was quite upset with the news and phoned him immediately. This is the second time I’ve been on a bus in Malaysia with the driver paying no attention at all to the road. (You can see this in the video below.)  I get it that driving a bus isn’t that interesting but it could be worse. I’ve had dull and boring jobs myself. You don’t know boredom until you’ve had to type up loan papers for a bank. So count the lines on the road or the minutes ’til you’re home or what you want to do to do Emilia Clarke…anything. Devote yourself to customer service and the endless possibilities of ordering suitcases in the luggage hold. But look Mister Malaysian Bus Driver, you’re probably not hired for your genius or the fact that you’re a very important person, so just deal with your station in life and 45 minutes of boredom and do your friggin job. Your own personal life is probably not that important for you to be risking the lives of 50 people so you can check Facebook.

There’s something about Southeast Asia — about doing as little as possible and trying to cheat the system with no regard for the effect on others or the environment. There’s a prevailing attitude here of seeing what one can get away with, not how one could do better or improve things. I see it everywhere from people dropping rubbish off their 18th floor balcony into the pool to people running red lights. Do you see how one can go sour on life in Malaysia when there’s so little common sense, adherence to health and safety laws, and basic integrity that a simple bus ride or a meal cooked with unwashed hands turns into a fight for your life? No one knows this more than Dianna (a regular reader of this blog). It’s this mentality that keeps this and other nations in the region isolated and perpetually stuck. The cheating comes all the way from the top down. Next time I will take the train and hope that the driver of THAT isn’t texting…dream on. I know America has its share of irresponsible people and cheaters, but not to the extent that it exists here. If that bus was seen weaving like that in the US, there would be police helicopters tailing it and shooting out the tires while being broadcast live on CNN. Several lawsuits would follow.

ANYWAY I DIGRESS, sorry. We had a great ticket agent at the AirAsia desk (a special treat!) and we got booked on the flight with the credit we had from our failed Bali trip. With boarding passes in hand and an hour to spare, off we went to Starbucks to use the Internet to find a hotel, dine and dash for the plane. No time to research the trip or plan a great mountain excursion with orangutans and kidnappers which may be indistinguishable.


Three hours later and one in-flight chicken in cream sauce, and we arrive in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah…BORNEO baby!


We got a nice expensive 2 minute taxi ride for 25 ringgit to the hotel. Guess we didn’t know that we could have walked it…25 ringgit, really people?!

The hotel was quite nice but Agoda’s price was considerably higher than the price promotion offered at the hotel front desk. Chuan notices these things and said Agoda will refund if it’s not the cheapest rate — what a great travel companion my hubby is — and so I got on the laptop and phoned customer service and got a full refund and re-booked the hotel at a lower price. Off to town for dinner with the savings!


This is downtown Kota Kinabalu also known as KK. Not very charming in my opinion. Full of unsightly shop lots and choked with traffic…unfortunately, that’s the look of most of Malaysia. But there’s some great seafood to be had. By the time we arrived in KK, Chuan had a list of top rated restaurants picked out and so we dove in. First meal was outdoors at an Italian place on the waterfront where I witnessed someone pointing a pocket laser beam at a flight leaving the airport nearby (a federal offense in America). Do they do that to impress a girl? Did they think about the devastating consequences of blinding a pilot?


This is the night fish market downtown. Entering the market, Chuan and I saw a whole family of rats scurrying through the parking lot on their way home from the market with their takeaway dinner. What can I say about rats and Malaysia that I haven’t already said? Just make sure you wash everything before you put it in your mouth. With all the above I found my spirit slowly sinking into the South China Sea. I feel bad for Chuan when this happens because he always keeps on the sunny side of life and either doesn’t notice all the offenses I do or he just isn’t weighed down by them. Lucky for me, he isn’t pulled down by my gravitas. And so the trip went on with him leading the way.


Above is a locally caught lobster (not ours) which is a spectacular creature — too spectacular to kill for a meal. In general I won’t eat cute, cuddly, or beautiful animals. And I really abhor looking into a tank and picking out the animal to be killed for my meal. Yep, I’m a weak person. I just prefer that be done by someone else and hopefully they won’t choose the fish floating belly up.


We did eat a LOT of shrimp on this trip. Above is the char kway teow (my favorite) at a restaurant on Manukan Island. Chuan was delighted how much seafood he could eat for so cheap compared to Kuala Lumpur’s prices. So we ate a lot of seafood including steamed fish with ginger sauce and crabs with me crying UNCLE one night and insisting we give the ocean a break and eat vegetarian…with a side of shrimp.


We spent one really lovely evening watching a sort of sunset at the Shangri-La Resort. We each had a pricey piña colada which seemed to contain no alcohol — typical of bars here. This time even Chuan complained, to which the staff said, “Hee hee hee. Sorry,” the stock response for all complaints. Here’s what happens inside the Asian brain when you lodge any complaint: First there’s a smile mechanism that’s immediately triggered to defuse any tension. If you press the issue, then there’s a big yellow internal button that gets depressed. It’s called the “Save Face” button. Once that button is depressed, you will no longer be seen. You become completely invisible and inaudible. You’re saying, “I’m not happy with this cocktail!” and what the Asian person is hearing is: huminuh huminuh huminuh. If you don’t immediately apologize profusely for your complaint, the the levers of inaction will be pulled. That causes an instant neuromuscular retardant to be released into the Asian’s bloodstream that disables any remedial action. It has essentially the opposite effect of adrenaline. We can only feel sorry for the Asian person at this point because they are completely incapacitated and useful to no one.

Chuan declared that from now on we’re ordering the half-priced “mocktail” version and producing a small bottle of rum from our backpack to juice it up. As long as we’re in a country of rule breaking we might as well…when in Rome, do as the Romans. Don’t attempt this, ever, in the US (but at least in the US, you can get a good strong and cheap drink so you don’t need to). Here you order a glass of wine for the US equivalent of $8 + 6% tax and 10% service charge which brings it to around $10 and it’s really a half glass. So in effect, a full glass of wine is $20. In the US, you’d get 4 full glasses for that price. Malaysia taxes the hell out of alcohol, literally. It’s an artifact of living in a Muslim country. It’s called a “sin tax.” And so I’m certain that establishments simply add water to their booze bottles. Sigh.

But we didn’t come here to drink. We came here…wait…why did we come here? Oh yeah, snorkeling!


We took a couple day trips by boat to some of the surrounding islands. It’s only about 7-10 minutes by speedboat to any number of small islands in the national marine park where you can hop off and immerse yourself in the underwater world of colorful fishes.


Click to enlarge panorama of Manukan Island. It’s monsoon season so the skies were stormy and it rained heavily every afternoon.

Once you get away from the groups of mainland Chinese tour groups who cling to the shore, even eating in restaurants in their lifejackets, it’s a great and fascinating adventure beneath the surface. We quietly slipped outside the barriers (lifeguards are too busy texting to notice) and swam the entire circumference of Mamutik Island. There, away from the frantic crowds screaming and scaring away the fish, we saw fantastic corals, unpuffed pufferfishes, big lipped triggerfish, turquoise and pink parrotfish, and feisty clown fish guarding their anemones.

We hold hands while snorkeling, partly as a form of affection but more to just keep track of each other without having to always be looking. And with a squeeze of the hand we could point out something like the pipefish lurking at the surface or the black tipped shark that came by to see what we were up to. This sighting was particularly exciting for me because in all the years of snorkeling, I’ve never seen a shark. Its visit was quite peaceful but even more surprising that Chuan didn’t scream into his snorkel. I tried to mouth the words, “Stay calm. Don’t panic,” through my snorkel which sounded something like “mmmay mmmalm mmont manit.” He was very calm and didn’t crush my fingers. He told me later he’d seen sharks before. Meh. Big, strong, fearless me, telling him not to panic, huh?


What’s up with the babies in Malaysia? There’s clearly a baby boom going on (in a place that doesn’t need one). You’re never far from screaming kids wreaking havoc on a place. And parents here have no hesitation bringing their kids to a place where they clearly don’t belong, like late at night at a cocktail bar. Really? We had many a meal skewered with wailing babies having meltdowns at or near the table, usually followed by the silverware banging on the table while parents are texting. (I swear aliens could visit Asia and pluck granny from the table and give her the anal probe and no one would notice because they’re all face down in their devices.)

One baby-zilla in KK we witnessed twice on a rampage walking on the furniture, ripping leaves off potted plants and brochures off the rack in the hotel lobby, and then hitting his mother while she just put up with it silently. And then on the airplane home, for 2 hours babies were kicking my chair. There were 3 kids and a helpless mother in 3 seats with the father seated somewhere else. An accident? I don’t think so. AirAsia is like the flying “kampung” (village).

At first I tried to imagine I was getting a lower back massage in one of those fancy high-tech massage chairs you see in airports and malls. Mmm. Nice and relaxing, yeah work the lumbar please. Great. When it causes my glasses to unseat themselves from my face I figure it’s gone far enough. Then the tray table slamming started. Up down. Up down. Up down and then followed by some more jabs at my tailbone. At one point I reached behind and grabbed the child by the ankle and threw it off the back of my chair. That would be enough to stop most kids in their tracks and file a lawsuit for inappropriate touching. But not in Malaysia. Pushing, shoving and grabbing is just par for the course.

Four more times I grabbed and pushed her feet off my seat. At one point I stood up and talked to the mother and asked her to please control her children. It continued. Then I asked again. Each time it was “Sorry. Sorry.” But no action. Finally I jumped up towered over the child who had her seat belt buckle all the way in her mouth, “STOP IT NOW! YOU STOP! STOP IT.” I was having a bonafide, undignified, characteristically Caucasian, hissy fit. I noticed Chuan looking at me from 3 rows back nodding his head like, “Yeah Hubby, give it to them.” He knew what was going on. It was a clash of cultures that would result in nothing. It was gay vs breeder. Caucasian vs Asian. Atheist vs Muslim. West vs East which = stand up and fight for your rights vs do nothing and save face. And then before there was going to be a quadruple homicide at 33,000 feet I asked to be reseated and the flight attendant obliged thereby avoiding an international incident and a sudden water landing.

Here’s the short video of the trip. You can see the Chinese mainlanders doing a wefie at the beach and listen to the babies screaming at various locales…


This basically says, “Caucasian Street.” Mat Salleh comes from the old days of British occupation of the Malay Kingdom when locals saw what they called Mad Sailors — drunk no doubt — and their term for drunk sailors was applied to all white folk.

In the end I didn’t get kidnapped so I guess the trip to Borneo was a success though it wasn’t exactly the Balinese paradise we had planned on. We will try Bali again in the coming months. We weren’t prepared on this last minute trip to do Mt. Kinabalu and I didn’t want to go chasing orangutans on the east side of Sabah where it’s kidnapping territory. So in a way we really didn’t get to see the best of Borneo. Maybe when I’m rich enough to have armed security detail I can go. Honestly, I’d rather see orangutans on TV than watching them being fed bananas in a sad rescue camp after losing their habitat to Indonesian deforestation. That’s just depressing. I wanna see happy simians in their native environments and that’s just not so easy in this world of dwindling forests.

I have only 80 days left in Southeast Asia, but who’s counting? ME. I AM! I am counting the days ’til I am on the ANA 787 Dreamliner bound for fresh air and emissions standards and good pizza and goat cheese and pecorino Romano and kalamata olive spread and cheap wine and hefeweizen beer and law and order and blue skies and bike lanes and crosswalks and sidewalks and noise ordinances and laws restricting fireworks and only one new year per year and museums and art openings and street musicians and thrift stores and farmer’s markets and recycling and composting and food labels. I’d rather face being gunned down on a sidewalk than not having a sidewalk to walk on or air that I can breathe.

What a difference a year and half has made.

Next stop: Langkawi in the Andaman Sea where alcohol doesn’t have the sin tax applied…not that cheap alcohol is the only draw, though it may very well be.

Posted by: facetothewind | November 3, 2015

Bali No Go


The moment we walked out the apartment door, my suitcase broke and cut my leg. Chuan said this was a sign that we shouldn’t go — a bad omen. Nah, I thought, it’s just a scratch and I’ll deal with the luggage.


Then on the train to the airport, the emergency alert came in that the Bali airport was closed completely due to the volcano erupting.


So we’re back home now. We are rebooked for tomorrow’s flight, but there’s no telling if the volcano will allow us to land. Sometimes travel delights you and sometimes it kicks your butt.

Today it kicked our butts.

Posted by: facetothewind | October 30, 2015

Escape from KL: Taking a Pulmonary Holiday


This is what the air quality in KL has been like since I returned from Europe. I have not seen the sun nor the moon nor anything colorful since I returned.


My already limited life turned into house arrest as it became not just unpleasant to go outside but downright dangerous.


Any foray into the outdoors required wearing masks. Here is Chuan sporting the duck billed one.


Then this headline appeared in the paper. Hmm, a typhoid outbreak. What more charming news of life in Malaysia could there possibly be? I wonder if my own contraction of it was considered in the statistics?


Then there was this headline article stating that 72% of university students in Malaysia would prefer to finish their degree abroad and gain permanent resident status. With all the above, I simply can’t imagine why the Malaysian dream has become to get the hell out. It certainly has become mine. And so I started checking airfares and to my delight I saw midweek specials on ScareAsia to Krabi, Thailand, for only $30 USD. And I found a highly regarded hotel there on the beach was having a last minute sale (70% off) on rooms. So I took advantage of the 1 hour flights out of the smoke and took off for Thailand.


This is the Golden Beach Resort where I stayed for only $32 a night…right on the beach. The smoke was gone! It was like going from a black and white movie to color…perhaps like that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy wakes up in the Land of Oz and all is colorful after a life spent in dreary Kansas.


I spent early mornings swimming in the Andaman Sea, doing yoga, playing clarinet and reading. Afternoon I would take off on sunset walks with a piña colada in one hand, my camera in the other.


After dark, I would get a $9 massage. Thailand really delivers when it comes to relaxing.


This is my $3 lunch. I ate all my meals alone, hardly talking to anyone for 4 days. Traveling alone can be wonderful. It’s a chance to just detach from anyone and everything worrisome. Here’s the video of the trip + some fun little goodies from KL and Bukit Tinggi before heading to Thailand. Don’t miss the fake-o-France, the piano/harmonica duets, and the invasion of the monkeys…

Magically when I returned from Thailand, the smoke had cleared and once again we could see to the horizon. The intentional fires in Sumatra are still burning to clear land for farming but the wind right now is blowing the other direction. So we have at least a short reprieve.


And here’s a video collage of some of my photography from recent days…

Next stop: Bali.

Posted by: facetothewind | October 17, 2015

Guest poetry

I sublet my apartment to a Canadian man while I was on my round-the-world trip. Here’s a poem he wrote about his time here and his daily walks through Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur smog haze air pollution

Poem by Benjamin Fortier • photo by David Gilmore

From all shade they greet,
No more places to hide,
I break to the heat.

To kids holding hands,
Digging deep, scratching a surface,
Scared to bend.

Everything to learn,
Everything to lose,
For so long I yearn.

A Woman sells a mask,
A man carves a flower,
Still blind to find a task.

Stepped in a hole,
Head unfortunately afloat,
The body takes the blow,
And lives the flow.

Colored tricycles speaking tongues,
Dangerously drawn to life,
Only a physical mute,
For more layers to reach their spirits.

Often an old man smiling of contempt shares a table,
Helping expose my fable.

Stay unpolished Jewel,
Could I never tame.


I recently accused a dear friend of being deeply narcissistic. And she is, with her constant need for validation, ruthless drive to satisfy her needs and control her space. But as they say, ‘it takes one to know one.’ With that said, I give you the ultimate narcissistic interview  — an interview with myself, by myself, about myself. Why, you ask? Because frankly, I have a lot of free time, so why not? Besides, no one has ever asked to interview me about myself and isn’t that what a flaming narcissist desires most? If you’re a person who can sit patiently at a bus stop and listen with courteous attention to a homeless person going on and on about himself, then you’ll probably enjoy this. If you want to throttle them for the unfiltered, boundaryless blather, then you may want to just look at the pictures and get back to Instagram.

DG: So, David, what’s it like being you?

DG: Starting out big, are we? Well, I have a good life, you know. At least it looks good on paper. I am no one’s fool and I have a lot of freedom. I travel a lot and have lots of fun little adventures.

DG: Then why are you cranky so much of the time?

DG: Because I am a restless idealist. No sooner do I arrive in an exotic locale then I’m finding fault with it. It’s a family gene thing. I come from a long line of malcontents.

DG: Speaking of exotic locales, why are you living in Malaysia of all places?

DG: Good question. Though I have had it up to here (my hand is 6″ above my head) with Asia, I like Asians. And Malaysia being an Asian country is chock full of guess what? Yes, Asians.

DG: But why Malaysia of all Asian countries? If it weren’t for the disappearance of Malaysia Air flight 370, hardly anyone in the West would have even heard of Malaysia.

DG: True. I chose Malaysia because Malaysians speak English and though I would love to be able to just gab away in Thai or Bahasa Melayu, I’m a goof with foreign language. Call me weird but I’m one of those people who likes to actually have a conversation face to face and that requires a pesky common language.

DG: OK, that explains Malaysia, but what’s the deal with Asians? You are what they call a ‘rice queen’ aren’t you?

DG: Yep, I guess I am indeed a rice queen. But why am I attracted to Asians? Because they’re so dern cute.

DG: Isn’t that a bit shallow and objectifying?

DG: If you say so, but didn’t you pick your partner because he or she was attractive to you? Or did you go for the disgusting slob who charmed you off your feet? Why is it objectifying only if it’s with Asians? Don’t people fetishize blonds with abandon?

If I had a multi-ethnic lineup of guys that I thought were adorable, I’d have them arrange themselves from shortest to tallest. Then I’d first go for the little ones which tends to be Asians. Secondly, I’d go for the dark skinned, black hair and brown eyed ones…which also tends to be Asians but not just. Caterpillar eyebrows and unibrows get extra points. I personally don’t get the attraction to blonds. But OK, to each his own. A big, hulking, blond dude with hairy chest is so far off my radar that I might actually not even see him. There would be some sort of white blurry blob. My vision would come back into focus on the smooth little guys at the dark end of the spectrum.

DG: Alright. But what’s so cute about little dark guys?

DG: Little is the key and Asians cornered the market on little. Well, not all Asians are little — the “subcontinental Asians” aren’t so small but the Chinese and Malays here are…or at least they start out small and then they eat a little too much onde onde and disappear off my radar. But the Thai, Laotian, Cambodian, and Burmese are all pretty tiny. But it’s the Malaysians who tend to have the best English skills. And the Chinese-Malaysians are the least religiously encumbered.

DG: Why is small so important to you?

DG: Gosh, that’s such a personal question, but I’m so glad you asked. It comes from a childhood complex about being the skinniest person in school who kids liked to pick on for being skinny. I was called ‘Twiggy,’ ‘Beanpole,’ and ‘The Nose Knows’ (I guess I was a bit of a know-it-all with a big schnoz). As a result, I developed some compassion for those smaller than me, but moreover, I swore that no one would ever kick sand in my face again and so I choose people smaller than me to be with…not that I kick sand in my sweet boyfriend’s face. We don’t have any sand in a high rise condo and even if we did…

DG: Got it. So you’re running around choosing people based on a childhood wound?

DG: Yeah, go ahead and put a negative spin on it. But yes. I am grossed out by partners who are bigger than me. And being grossed out is no way to start a relationship.

DG: But this “fetish” if I may…

DG: No, you may not.

DG: OK, I’ll rephrase that…this preference you have for little guys — is that enough of a basis for a relationship?

DG: Jesus, Mary, and Mohammed…do you think the only criterion I have for a man is someone small? No, I don’t go out the hotel door with a yard stick and the first person I find who’s small is my partner. Of course I want common interests and actually a long list of what I desire in a partner. Like, for example: being a lover of classical music, being earnest, honest, health conscious, elegant, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Wait a minute.

DG: That is quite a list. Sounds like you were a Boy Scout.

DG: Yeah, I made it to 2nd Class — a fitting designation for a gay boy in the late 70s. Anyway, I did find that list in my Chinese boyfriend. (He was a Scout, too.)

DG: But you complain about the Chinese all the time, don’t you?

DG: Yeah, but I complain about the MAINLAND Chinese, not the Malaysian-Chinese. Big difference. The difference isn’t quite night and day, they do have some of the industrial instincts of mainlanders, but Malaysian-Chinese are much softer and quieter. And they don’t wear clashing colors and patterns like mainlanders do. Malaysia is still a developing nation, and as such the people as a whole haven’t yet lost their humility but they’re working on it.

DG: You’re kind of an opinionated guy, aren’t you?

DG: Gee, thanks for noticing! Yes. I would say I’m also a curious person. But I want to say a little something more about my attractions to Asians before we leave this topic. I could have found other places with diminutive people but I came to Asia because of what Re-evalutation Co-Counseling calls a ‘frozen need.’ You see, when I was a teenager I was terribly in love with a Samoan boy.

DG: You mean like this?


DG: No, more like this:


I still get weak in the knees when I see this look. The Samoan boy in my high school wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I was hiding in the closet, fantasizing about him and unknowingly packing away my future frozen needs into a time capsule to be opened in Asia 30 years later.

DG: OK, so we have established a type.


Not Sebastian. But close.

DG: Yeah, I think we all have our types. Some of us are more secretive about it and some less so. Maybe you like guys with big beards, or albinos, or you like a woman with long legs or brunettes with green eyes. Some of us act on it and some don’t. Look, my ex Sebastian was about as far from that Samoan look as anyone could be, right? He was white as a milk bottle. But he was also little and that made up for my blind spot for whiteness. He was also incredibly smart, charming, and talented. And it all added up to a package that I fell in love with.

DG: So small trumps brown?

DG: Erm. Well, I don’t know if I could answer that. I think this conversation is getting too looksist anyway, so let’s move on.

DG: Right. Let’s talk about the age thing, then.

DG: I knew that was coming. Yeah, so you want to know why my boyfriends have all been younger than me, don’t you?

DG: Sure.

DG: Well, they don’t have to be. Young people cheer me up. They take more risks, they tend to be more adventurous and open minded. So we have more in common. And they tend to smile more and honestly, most people my age don’t smile much. Life kinda wears most people down and they become incredibly dull and set in their ways. But I don’t rule out older people for friends or lovers. In fact, I find myself often attracted to old black men.

DG: What??!!

DG: Don’t you “what?!” me — old black men are perfectly worthy of one’s attractions. When I was growing up in rural Southwest Florida, black people were clearly off limits to me as a white person. They rode different buses and lived in a segregated part of town. But if every time you hear a train whistle and someone covers your eyes, the one day they aren’t there to cover your eyes, aren’t you gonna look and see what’s making that noise? So black men at any age are attractive in my eyes.

DG: Wait, we’re getting far off the Silk Road here, now you’re telling me that the entire continent of Africa is not safe from you. Why didn’t you just stay in America, move to Philly or something and find an old black boyfriend?

DG: Well, aren’t you objectifying! The reason is because I’m a restless person and I wanted to get out of the US for other reasons like guns and greed, for example. And I have had a number of black boyfriends over the years and for whatever reason they didn’t work out. But let’s move on, OK? There are more interesting topics to cover than my romantic attractions.

DG: OK, well tell me about your current boyfriend. What do you like about him?


Chuan perfecting his chocolate cake.

DG: Let me tell you about our Sunday. We slept in and then made French toast and banana shakes together. He played some Bach on the piano. Then we went to the park and had a little picnic. We came home and he went grocery shopping while I napped. I woke up and he was making me a grass-fed beef stew and a chocolate cake from scratch. He left all this behind (and a pineapple) to comfort me while he had dinner with his mother because he knows I don’t like being alone on Sunday night. What’s not to love about THAT?

DG: Sounds wonderful but it sounds kind of like he’s your houseboy.

DG: I’m gonna hit you. He doesn’t get paid and he doesn’t clean. He’s actually quite messy. I clean the house, do his laundry, and I shop and cook for HIM most of the time. The fact that he likes to play classical music and work on his baking skills are certainly appealing. But more importantly, he has a golden and tender heart and he cares for me like I’m family. He fits all my criteria of adorable AND he’s gentle, loving, earnest, and kind. And all the Boy Scouts superlatives.

DG: Got it. So, when are you getting married?

DG: That’s a weekly topic of discussion around the house, actually. We can’t get married in Malaysia. It is a Muslim country. Here our love is flat out illegal. We could only marry in a morally depraved country like America and he needs to see the country first and then decide for himself if it’s a place he can live. I don’t want him to come on a fiancé visa as it will be too much pressure. He will come and visit and see and then we’ll talk about making it more permanent after he has had a chance to digest his experience of the US, and more importantly, Tucson.

DG: What do you predict will happen?

DG: Gosh. I give it a remote chance of working out. It’s not easy to leave your home country, even when it’s a hot mess like Malaysia. His mother is here and we all know how Chinese boys are expected to dote on their mothers ’til their dying day. I suspect he will not like the Arizona desert — I think he’ll find it too dry and too extreme with all the biting plants, reptilian creatures, and harsh overhead lighting. He recently asked me, “Hubby is Tucson a fashion town?” My heart sank to tell him that dressing up in Tucson is a clean t-shirt. He won’t like the gun-toting nutbags and white trash of America. Asia may be annoying but at least you don’t get your head shot off in school. And Malaysians don’t make false promises and professions of love like Americans do routinely.

I think he will enjoy the cultural benefits and the economic possibilities for his life there. So it will be a mixed experience. Tucson isn’t magical — it’s a good solid place but not one most people dream about moving to. He’d rather we lived in New York. I also want to take him to Europe (he’s never been to the West at all) to see how he likes that, because honestly, I would rather live in Europe myself than in America. Until the guns and healthcare messes are sorted, which is probably going to be never, I’d rather live outside the US. I’m just not feeling the love for Asia now.

DG: A year and a half ago you were so excited about moving to Malaysia. Maybe you’re just not happy anywhere.

DG: Well, considering that there’s not much more in Kuala Lumpur than shopping malls and it’s always miserably hot and humid, and now we can’t even breath the air because of the smog. So I’d say yes, I have gone sour on Southeast Asia. I’d feel that way about Paris if I lived there. Remember, I’m a restless person. Three months anywhere is enough!

DG: What about somewhere else in Asia?

DG: We will be in Bali in a couple weeks…who knows?


You thought WE were age divergent? Look at this couple. Been together for years. Malay and Australian. Come on, it’s adorable. Read on…

DG: Now, your boyfriend is 23 years younger than you…

DG: Back to the age thing, huh? Yes, he is. After Sebastian (who was 21 years my junior) I swore I would find someone my own age and now I am with someone even younger than Sebby. Oh well! Westerners are pretty obsessed with the age issue. It’s really a non-issue in Asia. Conversely, maturity is considered a plus here. In America, at age 51, I’m completely and utterly invisible in the gay community. Here, well, let’s just say it’s different. But when I first arrived in KL, I started dating someone who was only 4 years younger. I was excited about the possibility of pleasing all you ageists back home, but he wasn’t so much fun and not very adventurous. I noticed I didn’t laugh much with him.

Chuan, on the other hand, bounces in the door and jumps around like a kid with boundless enthusiasm for even the smallest things: “Hubby let’s go to the movies tonight and sit in the beanbag chairs!” And we did. It is probably the greatest benefit of being around young people — they tend to be more open minded and playful. We laugh a lot together.

DG: But your lives don’t quite line up do they? You’re going to ‘time out’ a little sooner than your boyfriend will, right?

DG: Hah! That’s the prevailing assumption, but at age 51, I am more likely to be staying up ’til 2 am and climbing the 25 flights of stairs to the apartment than my 28 year old boyfriend. Here’s the deal: that oh-so-American proscription of age-divergent relationships only makes a shred of sense when it comes to child rearing and since we have no plans to ruin our lives with children, our relationship is really only about love and support. And adventure. And fun. Yes, fun. That’s where the term ‘gay’ came from. Remember, gay used to mean happy before it was applied to a sexuality? The name implied that we were carefree because we had double incomes and no mouths to feed or diapers to change. How things have changed.

But anyway, I fully intend to be traveling the world and goofing off with my younger Chinese boyfriend/husband ’til I’m 85. I recently heard the term for these age divergent East/West relationships: ‘Walking stick and chopstick.’

DG: So you think it’s a long shot for you with your Malaysian-Chinese boyfriend settling in America.

DG: The word ‘settling’ shouldn’t ever be used in any description of my life, but he’s such an extraordinary young man that how could I NOT give it an honest try. And even if it doesn’t work out long-term, we will have some great adventures along the way (we already have). And isn’t that what this gift of life is all about?

DG: For you, clearly, life is about adventure and play. What about hard work and making a difference and changing the world?

DG: Geez, how soon you forget. My life is full of play now but it hasn’t always been. I used to teach in 2 different schools in San Francisco, ran my own design firm, started a gay advocacy non-profit and took it about as far as it could go into non-profitdom. We did win the Edward R. Murrow award, after all. And I volunteer teaching English to Burmese refugees for the UN. But as far as corporate life, well someone else has to make the widgets, not me. And as far as making a difference…everything one does, every interaction we have with others makes a difference. I’ve given up the ideal that I’m going to profoundly influence the direction of humanity. Thank god!


DG: So how do you manage to pull off this lifestyle of traveling and playing all the time on a shoestring?

DG: There are a few things that I have done that have allowed me to live freely: one is with a little help from my parents, I bought 3 cheap houses successively in Arizona, fixed them up, sold them, or rented them out. I learned how to do the fixing myself and then I built a house from scratch and rented it out. In addition I have a career as a computer graphic artist, web designer, filmmaker, and narrator — stuff that I can do from wherever I am perched as long as I have the Internet. It just means that sometimes I have to stay up till 2 am or get up at 5 am to meet my clients on line in their time zones. (Nothing that a little afternoon nap can’t remedy.) And I have generous friends who have helped out with some fun bitty bits along the way.

But one other very important thing — and this is a hard one for many Americans — is that I’ve not gotten caught in the trap of material acquisitions. I actually have more stuff than I would like, but I don’t own a car and I don’t have a fetish for shopping. When I do feel like shopping, I go to the thrift store so that the damages are minimal. But when I was younger I got caught in the consumer debt trap that binds so many Americans. When I finally untangled myself from it, I swore I’d never be in that mess again. I spend my money on experiences that will bring me joy and memories for a lifetime rather than on material items that give me a momentary rush of pleasure.

DG: Well, aren’t you just so perfect! You’re free and easy and happy.

DG: Hardly. The reality of my life is that I was born melancholy. I came out of my mother’s womb and sighed when they spanked me. My first words were “Oh, how poignant.” Being restless has actually saved my life. I could easily stay at home and be miserable and drink too much, listen to sad music, and watch sad movies…which is sort of my natural inclination. And so I force myself to get out and run, run, run. If I’m at home alone for long periods, I tend to watch sinking ship videos ad nauseum. I’m fascinated with the demise of people’s dreams and ideals — zeppelins and ocean liners and mansions that offered extreme luxury to the privileged few…until something went really wrong.

DG: Kind of sounds like your book.

DG: Yes, in fact, my book Homosteading at the Nineteenth Parallel is all about that…my fantasy of a tropical island dream house gone wrong. Read it. It’s always fun to watch someone else’s dream go down the drain. And it will only cost you a few dollars instead of your whole life’s savings doing it yourself.

DG: So what are your pet peeves?

DG: Gawd. How long do we have?


DG: Never mind. Let’s skip that one. Who are your heroes?

DG: Hmmm. Right off the top of my head, Elizabeth Sparks in Tucson. Yeah, Liz. She’s an extraordinarily powerful person who co-manages the Tucson Village Farm. What I really like about her is that she has the ability to be really light and hilariously funny in the face of challenging circumstance. And yet she can kick your ass from here to eternity if she needs to. But she mostly insists instead on you being the best you possibly can — she sees to it that you only show up in a great light. I’ve seen her in the unenviable position of schmoozing Monsanto executives while running an organic farm. I wouldn’t trade lives with her, but being around her is an inspiring ride of engagement with all people.

I would also say Mark Allison from Pai, Thailand. He’s a wonderfully wise and yet easy-going guy with a big heart. He is remarkably grounded in any situation. He co-manages the restaurant in Thailand and his own counseling and massage practices. He is sort of the de-facto mayor of Pai as everyone knows him and loves him.

And finally I would say Chuan is my hero — I know it’s trite to name your partner. But hey, that’s the mark of a good relationship, isn’t it? What is heroic about Chuan is the way he cares for people like his aging grandparents and his mother. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to actually be Chuan, as he thinks with his heart, not his head. The world seems to want to always shut down those with open hearts but it doesn’t happen to him. He needs almost no propping up, just a little hug now and then. His seemingly endless supply of love and generosity doesn’t work against him because he’s not doing things for others in order to get something back. He genuinely cares for people and I’m honored to be one of the ones he cares for.

DG: So maybe I should ask what’s next for you?

DG: Getting out of Asia alive and well and with my boyfriend in tow. A year and a half ago my goal was to get out of America. Then I was escaping alone on an adventure to find a companion. Now I’m going back and hopefully not alone. Seems like I did get what I came here for.

You know, it’s not easy being an idealist with endless free time and some budget to play with but no clear direction. I can hear your groans of false pity just reading that! I suffered for years in corporate cubicles doing crap work that I hated and was stuck with a very unloving boyfriend in San Francisco. I worked my ass off doing this and that here and there and then running a starving non profit. For a brief period I had the creative team I wanted. But that ended in 2004. After that I built a house and wrote a book. Fell in love and then grieved its loss. And then I lost my direction. I had one thing left to achieve in life: lasting true love.

For me now having found that, I don’t really know what’s next. It’s the dilemma of self-styled people who choose to swim upstream — or choose a different path than the masses. What was it that Billy Joel’s sang, “All your choices make you change your mind.”

I long to have a creative project to sink my teeth into. I fantasize about opening a cabaret. Or a food truck. Or to have an art gallery of my own photography. Or all of the above in one place. But the reality of finessing these things takes so much money and energy and introduces so much risk to my carefree lifestyle that I’m unlikely to pursue these daydreams. If manifesting something big like that again is for the grand payoff of the final product, then count me out. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in this long and fascinating journey of life, it’s that the joy of life comes from the daily doing, not being hellbent on achieving something that will make me believe in myself. That’s simply not going to happen. It’s the creative camaraderie that I thrive on, that gets me out of bed. Being part of an imaginative team and having a place where you go to work on transformative projects — now that’s the good stuff. And that is clearly something missing from my life since the demise of Outright Radio.

But until I figure it out or make peace with not having it, then I guess it’s just an endless indulgence in hedonistic pleasures and little moments of joy in exotic places with my boyfriend. Ho hum. Things could definitely be worse.

I do want to write another book. I want to sing more with the Tucson Symphony and I want to play my clarinet in a band. But right now I want to eat some of the beef stew Chuan made for me. And he just called and is coming by to give me a hug.

So that’s what’s next: beef stew and a hug.


DG: Sounds good to me.

Posted by: facetothewind | October 9, 2015

Chow Kit Market


Remember that open air market that I used to go to when I first moved to Chow Kit? I shopped there for my produce until they opened the mall next door. Chow Kit Market was a place where one could see things a woman’s not ‘posed to see…like piles of animal heads with their tongues hanging out, screaming chickens getting their heads cut off and thrown flapping into a bucket, guys peeing in public, and rats, rats, rats. Even the local government declared it unsanitary as they were catching 50 rats per hour there. It was the place where the prices jumped up as I, the only white person to shop there, waded through the flies, stepping over fish parts.  You can read my original posting on it by clicking here. Someone wrote this (not me!) on TripAdvisor…


Well, last night just as I was lying down to sleep I heard sirens. And more sirens. So I opened the drapes to see glowing orange and smoke in the place where Chow Kit’s wet market is…was. Yep, it went up in flames a bit past midnight. Perhaps the only way to close such a market without a lot of push back from the community would be to torch it and run. Who knows? Unlikely we’ll ever know. But that’s just how things work in this part of the world and don’t ask questions. So the underworld of the Chow Kit Market was sent up into the night air in a greasy cloud of black smoke while I watched from afar. I don’t think anyone was hurt. I do wonder where all the rats went…pulling up the draw bridge now.

Rest in peace.


Posted by: facetothewind | October 5, 2015

Crazy Haze


If you’ve read my blog before, you’ve seen what the view from my apartment can be. Now look at it (above). This heinous air pollution comes to us courtesy Indonesia where they are practicing slash and burn agriculture and clearing forests for palm oil plantations. On the ground, this is what it looks like…


This is what it looks like from outer space. Kuala Lumpur is somewhere under that upper layer of smoke as we are pretty close to the source of the smoke.


And this is what it does to the air quality…


So we’ve taken to wearing masks and staying indoors mostly with the windows closed. In my opinion, Malaysia is currently uninhabitable. The locals are amazingly tolerant and rugged to put up with this year after year. I now have an upper respiratory infection just from breathing the little outside air that I do. In the evening when my cough starts, Chuan hits my back and out pops some big wad of green goo. It’s truly disgusting.


I asked my friend Cynthia the other day, “Would you rather be gunned down in fresh air in America or have your purse snatched in the smog of Malaysia?” Her answer: “Be gunned down in fresh air…just saying.” I had to laugh at the lunacy of this mad, mad, mad, mad world we’ve created.

Still I don’t miss the opportunity to smell a frangipani. Chuan and I are going to Bali in a few weeks for a little lush life. Can’t wait!


Living in Malaysia is the definition of true love…


Only 115 more days of this.

Posted by: facetothewind | September 26, 2015

25,000 Miles and I’m Home


The last stop in my circumnavigation of this once great planet is Amsterdam. John and I took the train from Bruges through Antwerp and then on up into the Netherlands. Did you know that Netherlands means “lowlands?” It’s a muddy place that would be underwater were they not stemming the tide with dikes and pumps. The mushiness of the soil is evidenced by the leaning buildings which over the centuries have had their ups and downs.


Nothing in Amsterdam is plumb, square, or level. Sofas probably have seat belts.

You might think you’re stoned, which in Amsterdam is a very easy possibility, but no, the buildings are literally melting into the mud. I can’t imagine having a rolling desk chair in one of those 17th century beauties. Anyway, John had his maps at the ready and we hit the streets to discover this town we’d both been to many years ago.

Cafes, Canals, Cheese, Canabis, Cycling, Crowds

Arizona has its 5 C’s: copper, climate, citrus, cattle, cotton. But Amsterdam has its own set of C-perlatives coined by me (and it sure doesn’t include “Climate” as it rained almost every day) but you have to add a B in there for Beer! So here’s my Amsterdam superlatives in photos:


We found this extraordinary cafe that had amazing homemade pastries — all wonderfully luscious and moist. It seemed to be some sort of women’s collective as it was entirely staffed by women. We especially loved the rhubarb pie. It’s called Die Laatste Kruimel — The Last Crumb — but I can’t say where it is for sure. One clue: it is by a canal.


The canals give the city a wonderful romantic quality with reflections of 500 year old buildings shimmering in the water while electric tour boats silently glide by, passengers sipping champagne.


In a way, with all its waterways, museums, and historic architecture, Amsterdam is a combination of Paris and Venice rolled into one big fat joint. And nearly as crowded…


But what Amsterdam DOESN’T have is car traffic. It’s all bicycle traffic.


It is estimated that there are more bicycles than people. And so the air is clean and the streets are remarkably quiet except for the grinding street trams and the sound of bicycle bells. They have their own half of the sidewalk and don’t you dare step into it or face a chorus of angry bells (see the video at the end of this posting).

Now the cheese. Here’s my lunch in Edam, a small town 45 minutes from Amsterdam, known for its cheese by the same name. This heavenly lunch of all things not found in Asia cost me 3.75 euros ($4.20 — an auspicious number in Amsterdam!). The guy behind the counter made a sample of cheese slices for me, the bread was fresh out of the oven, and the olive medley he threw in for free. The beer was a “tripel” which meant it had a high alcohol content of 8.4%. So I wandered around in a daze that afternoon and fell asleep on the bus back to Amsterdam. I had a sore neck upon arrival but it was worth it.

beer and cheese

The Canabis. Yeah you’ve all heard about it. The “coffeeshops” serve a variety of marijuana if you ask for it. If only I were in my 20s again, I might have enjoyed it. But I’m more of the museum-going, beer-swilling, pastry pusher at this point in my life.


But I do appreciate a town liberal enough to allow such things even if I’ve personally outgrown them. And hey, who knew Amsterdam was a college town…


Where else but Amsterdam (and perhaps Portland, OR) are you going to find Cheech & Chong’s Coffeshop? If you’re too young or sophisticated to know who C&C are, do look them up.


And you gotta love a city that allows prostitution, and in fact taxes and regulates it. (I guess, so does Nevada, USA.) Here in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, it seems to draw the same titillated and sleazy crowds Las Vegas does. It’s not really my scene either, but John and I walked through it and resisted the temptation to go into the Museum of Prostitution. FYI – there’s a museum for everything in Amsterdam, from ceramic cows to tuilps to day glo art to marijuana.


Here’s a window in the famous Red Light District. No pix from my camera of the girls, sorry, I respect their privacy. And for the record I did not see any boys for sale. For that you’ll have to go to Bangkok or online…oh oops, not anymore since was busted. *Interesting side note: I spent my 43rd birthday hanging out with the CEO of in Bangkok…not quite realizing who he was at the time. He did buy my birthday dinner. Thanks, “Jamon.” What can I say, America is still a prudish nation poisoned by its pilgrim beginnings.

Speaking of museums, Amsterdam has the most famous Rembrandt painting The Night Watch in the Rijksmuseum, truly a sight to behold with the drama of its size and use of light. Like the Mona Lisa in Paris, It draws the big crowds, sigh. I was thrilled, though, to see groups of Dutch school kids there. Interestingly, there are information placards circulating around the painting. One of the questions people ask the most is, “How much is The Night Watch worth?” What a dumb question, huh? The museum’s response is the essence of Dutch practicality: “We have no idea, it’s not for sale, anyway.”


Amsterdam is also home of the fabulous Van Gogh Museum. If you can brave the lines and crowds, you are treated to a progressive, multi-floor trip through the life of the tortured (yet disciplined) artist via his work, his friends’ works, and his letters. Here’s the painting I liked the most: a portrait of his beloved brother Theo, but it was formerly believed to be one of his many self-portraits.


A couple other extraordinary things about Amsterdam…much of its wealth has its roots quite literally in flowers. Tulip bulbs were once worth more than houses and were traded like stocks in the market. And to this day, the Netherlands remains a major global flower market. This manifests in Amsterdam with the wonderful fresh-cut floral displays seen in so many restaurants and shops…


In Amsterdam, you don’t have to pinch the flowers, they’re real and so are the candles. None of the flickering LED variety here.


One last thing. The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. No kidding — at 5’10” I came up to about shoulder height of most men there.


This woman, who was a bit shorter than me, is seen out walking her pet gorilla, err, a normal-sized Dutch man. The average height of a Dutch man is 6’4″. Now how did that happen? I’d say it’s the cheese.

Overall, I’d say Amsterdam is a pretty groovy city with a lot of European history and charm that has yet to be invaded by mainland Chinese tour groups unloading busloads of selfie-makers. I think there’s a stigma about drugs and prostitution that are off-putting to the mainstream mainlanders and maybe the more adventurous mainlanders would come on their own and be totally welcome. There are too many tourists as is, evidenced by the masses at Dam Square and the line around the block at the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum. Most of them it seems are from Italy, Spain, France, and England. I heard a few American accents (yes, dear Americans, you do have an accent that is quite discernible), but mostly what I heard was Spanish and Italian.

Here’s the video of the trip…

And here’s the remainder of my photos in a photo collage. You can enjoy some more floral displays, a pictorial visit to the Hortus Botanicus, and a small collection of sagging buildings. Click on the first one and use your arrow to advance through…

Finally, this is what I returned to in Malaysia. Sadly, the place is a hot mess…

Look at the view from my window. The smog or as they call it, the

Look at the view from my window. The smoke or as they call it, the “haze,” comes to us courtesy Indonesia illegally burning its forests.

The Malaysian currency is collapsing. When I first moved here, the Ringgit was 1 USD = 3.25 Ringgit. Now look at it. It's good for me, but bad news for Malaysians.

The Malaysian currency is collapsing. When I first moved here, the Ringgit was 1 USD = 3.25 Ringgit. Now look at it. It’s good for me, but bad news for Malaysians.


My first day back. Wehoo. ISIS rolls out the welcome mat. But they won’t bother me, I’m Canadian, remember.


The corruption scandal reaching new lows. The PM is accused of embezzling nearly 700 million USD from a public fund, which is contributing to the lack of investor confidence in the country and the sagging currency.

But the highlight of the return would be my sweet boyfriend who waited patiently for me to come home, tracking the ship across the ocean every day. Nothing like a month apart to rekindle passion!


It is good to be home. But home is where the heart is and fortunately for me, the heart is a moveable feast.

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